Paul Mullowney: Master Printer, Master Educator


Master printer Paul Mullowney empowers students through a year-long artist residency at PNCA.

Although classes are officially over and though the Commons are quiet, the printmaking studio at PNCA is buzzing. The low murmur of conversation leads to artist-in-residence Paul Mullowney and a team of students working to publish a limited edition of prints for well-known Portland artist Storm Tharp. At a table against the wall, Mullowney quickly and efficiently applies a thin sheet of Japanese gampi paper and wheat paste to the inked copper plates and hands it to a pair of students who run it through the printing press. Lifting the paper from the press, careful not to leave any fingerprints, they assess it: “This one looks good, Paul,” or “The signature here is getting a little worn.” You can hear the quiet pride in their voices at being asked to collaborate with a craftsman of Mullowney’s caliber.

Instilling that kind of confidence in his students is something Mullowney does particularly well:

“He’s so open and generous about sharing his knowledge,” says Printmaking Department Chair, Christy Wyckoff, “He really empowers the students.”


Paul Mullowney instructs a group of students on First Thursday as part of his Work In(g) Studio exhibition, April 2010. Photo: Craig Sietsma ’14

Mullowney comes to PNCA from the Hui No‘ean Visual Arts Center in Hawai’i where he worked as the Director of Printmaking at HuiPress. He became a Master Printer at Crown Point Press in San Francsico and has lived off and on in Japan for the last thirty years.

“I love the religion, the architecture, the culture,” Mullowney explains.

A few years ago, Mullowney led a student workshop at PNCA. Wyckoff remembers being impressed with the way Mullowney engaged with the students. Wyckoff then proposed a yearlong artist-in-residency position for Mullowney, the longest residency on record at PNCA.

While at PNCA, Mullowney taught three printmaking classes and maintained his own studio. His class on direct gravure was so successful that it has been integrated into next year’s printmaking curriculum.

“I am grateful to have been able to spend a year here,” Mullowney says, “The students and the department here are very strong.”


A selection of brushes used in Mullowney’s studio practice. Photo courtesy the artist.

In his personal art practice, Mullowney explores the tension between control and accident, and between memory and loss. To accompany the spring edition of Submit, the student-run literary journal, Mullowney produced 510 unique prints of Japanese family photos he had found in a thrift store.

When he and his student team finish with Storm Tharp’s prints, Mullowney will head to San Francisco where he will begin work on a large-scale print of an illustrated U.S. Constitution by Sandow Birk. But he may return to Portland one day.

“I’d love to get him back,” says Wyckoff. “It’s been fabulous having him here.”

by Killeen Hanson '12

— Posted on 08/11 at 11:53 AM

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